When film fans mourned the death of comic book legend Stan Lee, Linda Stewart spoke to four NI people about the enormous impact that Marvel's creations have had on their lives.
"This is a remarkable legacy for Stan to leave him"
Niamh Lennon (25), from Bangor, works as a hotel receptionist. He studied special and visual effects at the University of Bolton
Niamh has been a fan of Marvel since childhood and a regular cosplayer at the Belfast science fiction convention, dressing up like many comic book characters.
"Every year I will dress up – sometimes it's like anime or game characters and sometimes it's Marvel characters," he said. "You're walking on the spot running to all kinds of people dressed as Captain America or Iron Man, and that's really fun."
A self-recognized member of Harry Potter, it was a quick leap in fandom to X-Men with his schooling for young mutants.
"I have watched them from not for centuries – and then the film MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) came out with Captain America and Thor and Iron Man," he explained.
Such was his love for fantasy and sci-fi that Niamh decided to study special and visual effects at the University of Bolton.
"You can choose to do CGI, but I go on the road with physical effects such as sculpture, costumes and character designs, because I want to continue working in theaters.
Marvel is a big part of that. "It will be my dream job one day to work on Marvel films," he said.
But when Niamh first entered university, he found a different scarcity from the student community – so he finally founded himself, Culture Society Geek.
"Our first event was Marvel vs. DC Comics bar crawling, and it was very successful that the community became the biggest student community in the university – still, many years after I graduated," he explained.
"I have always been interested in Spider-Man, and my favorite character is Gwen Stacy. She was Spider-Man's first girlfriend in many comics – she was really smart and later became a scientist in many comics, but she was accidentally killed.
"I also like X-Men – I like the idea of a mutant school and all children with super powers must go to school and learn how to use it.
"Everyone has a character that is connected with them and feels inspired. This is something that many people need – they need someone to feel inspired.
"I did not believe when I saw that Stan Lee had died. He was 95 years old and had lived a life like that.
"We will miss seeing his brilliant acting in all films. Marvel is an extraordinary legacy that has been abandoned."
& # 39; Fellow of Marvel fans that I met in Belfast have become my tribe & # 39;
Keith Millar (40) from Coleraine studied for a PhD in science but is now a regional manager for Help Musicians, Britain's largest independent charity. He also joined Alan Taylor on podcast Coffee and Heroes which discussed new superhero films.
I don't remember being a fan of comic books and superheroes. Spider-Man in particular has always been my favorite, "said Keith.
"I remember watching Spider-Man cartoons back in the early 1980s when I was three or four years old – Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – and that was really narrated by Stan Lee with his New York accent."
But it was not easy to get American comics in the 1980s in Northern Ireland and more often than not fans ended up with a single edition of a continuous story.
"They used to do an English reprint of American comics and they reprinted a story called Secret War which was a massive Marvel crossover event with all heroes – Fantastic Four and Spider-Man and so on together. This spurred my interest in comics. ," he says.
When he was around 11 years old, he found the Talisman comic book shop in Belfast's Winetavern Street.
"This is the first time I have seen a shop that sells comics – and you can get the whole story. Since then, I have gotten my comic book from Talisman in the mail – and that has been a collector since then," he said.
"This is funny, I think the reason I got into science in the first place, maybe unconsciously, was because Peter Parker (Spider-Man) was a scientist.
"It's funny how something you feel impacts your development, how you spend your money, friends you make.
"There are things like Spider-Man's motto. With great power, big responsibility comes – and what is said is if you have the power to do something, you might have to do it.
"So, if you have the power to protect people around you, whether physically or in a mental health crisis, you might have to do it.
"Moto X-Men is & # 39; Fighting for a world that hates and fears them. So just because some people have different looks, different sexual preferences or different colors, that doesn't mean they have to be hated and feared.
"The Incredible Hulk is about controlling anger and the effects of anger."
Keith moved to Belfast two years ago and was at Smithfield Market when he saw Coffee and Heroes, a coffee shop and comic book store located near the Talisman place.
"I went to drink coffee and talk to people behind the counter and we just realized that we are very good and have the same attitude towards many things," he said.
Now he describes Alan Taylor and his fiance Vicky as & # 39 of the Belfast family. "All the guys and girls who come to the store – he builds a community and a safe place for people. They are people I invite to go to, go to the movies together, hang out together – they are my tribe now."
Keith said he had never met Stan Lee.
"It's amazing to think about the impact of a man you've never met and don't know you can have your life and your growth grows, your friends and how you see the world. That person for me is Stan Lee," he said.
"I always thought I'd get the chance to meet him and say thank you, but now I will read comics and learn lessons."
& # 39; The story is suitable for all ages … they create excitement & # 39;
Alan Taylor (35), from northern Belfast, owns the Coffee and Heroes comic book shop at Winetavern Street, Belfast, with his fiance, Vicky (32).
For me, it started when I was little and watched cartoons Saturday morning. You have things like the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons and there are also Batman animated series, "said Alan (bottom right).
"Then I found an old shop in Belfast called Talisman. We like to think in a strange way that we are a spiritual successor to that – we are an independent shop, run by fans, and we want to inspire a sense of community.
"We are a coffee shop and a comic shop, and people come and gather and talk about the latest comics and storylines. This is a safe space where you can talk about it."
As for his favorite Marvel character, "You can't see Spider-Man's past," he said. "What's great about Stan Lee is that in creating X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man (below) they are regulated characters in the real world. Fantastic Four are fighting families, X-Men are outsiders. Spider- Man is a 15-year-old boy who is still learning how to grow and get all these responsibilities and is learning how to deal with them.
"It's interesting for a six-year-old child, just like a 30-year-old child – it's universal. They are things that people can accept – they are real-world characters that are handled in fantastic ways."
In a sense, Stan Lee will live forever thanks to his great inheritance, more than 60 years, Alan said.
"I saw this journalist cartoon Stan Lee standing at the pearl gate and the voice of God saying & # 39; You're not too bad at creating your own universe, and I think it's perfect," he added.
"He is well known through his films too – he has done all the cameos and has filmed the pair in advance so there will be more.
"There are people who find stories that will soon return to the 50's and there is still the same sense of joy and curiosity. All the stories of Stan Lee are suitable for all ages – the messages are universal and they create excitement. The man is truly a perfect storyteller, to the end. "
& # 39; A lot of my childhood memories are watching the cartoons & # 39;
Simon Bamford (28) from Lisburn is married to Jessica (29). His love for Marvel was a big influence when he made a video game and he now runs concessions at Tesco stores.
Simon said he first realized Marvel at six or seven, watching Spider-Man cartoons with his brother every week.
"There are also X Men and Hulk Incredible cartoons too. Some of my childhood memories are from the show and really enjoyed it too," he said.
"When I like seeing characters who have special abilities – it's nice to see all the bright and colorful characters. Spider-Man has all the different superheroes on the show at some point. I don't know what it is – I have to watch it every week "
When the film starts playing, Simon will disturb his family to go and see them in the cinema.
"Having real people in the cartoon is something I've never experienced before and I have to see it," he said.
He is also a big fan of video games: "There are so many Spider-Man games that I have to get and when I get older I decide that is the type of career I want to try and do." At the university Simon met with some like-minded friends and they founded their own video game company called Digipop Games – although it eventually proved difficult to make money from making games. One of the games is the prototype superhero game.
"I'm influenced by Spider-Man, who is also Peter Parker, just like a superhero character," he said.
Simon said, the first time he saw Stan Lee in one of his famous brilliant acting was Kevin Smith's Nineties romcom Mallrats.
"Every time he appears in one of the films, you almost make fun," he said.
"He created a world of character that is so vast, relatable characters that you can see for yourself. I think he is brilliant in what he does and the energy and passion he shows to the end are brilliant. His legacy is extraordinary."